Hey guys, this is my first article and it’s a doozy, so bear with me. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the In Response Podcast, and this is my first real attempt at delving into the world of writing about Magic. I’ve decided that a good first topic would be a set review of the red cards in Journey into Nyx. There are a lot of interesting cards in Red, let’s have a look.
Hoo boy, this one certainly brings the pain! Akroan Line Breaker doesn’t break any records in the size department as a 2/1 for 3 (He’s too busy breaking lines), but he is capable of putting out a ton of damage in the right scenario. I can see loading this guy up with a bestow creature or even a combat trick later in the game and getting in for 5+ damage each time, which is exactly what red aggressive decks would like to do at that point in the game. A 2/1 is not great on turn 3, but it’s a body and it contributes to your team. And then when you get to the point in the late game where your opponent has stabilized and you just need to get in the last 8 or so points of damage, Akroan Line Breaker gives you a way to break through. Just remember that he becomes a lot worse against other red decks, as that intimidate will become a lot less useful.
“Atlas through hard constraint upholds the wide heaven with unwearying head and arms, standing at the borders of the earth.” -Hesiod
Bearer of the Heavens, one of the super top-down designs that they saved for the last set in Theros block. I love this card because of its flavor, but it’s not really that relevant in limited because it’s so expensive. 10/10s are good, but 8 mana is definitely too much, and his trigger is rarely relevant. He does form a nice combo with Gift of Immortality though.
This is a card that we’ve seen before, and it’s always been good. If you’re attacking, he provides a way to get through damage even if your opponent has a blocker, and if you’re blocking then you have a pretty decent evasive clock while you keep the board stable.
Blinding Flare I…don’t really want to play this card. Falter effects are generally worth having if you’re aggressive, and not great if you aren’t, and this card is a pretty bad Falter because it’s so expensive (Unless you’re only targeting one creature). One good thing it has going for it is the capacity to target your own creatures and trigger heroic, but I’m not sure how relevant that is. Overall, if you’re fairly aggressive then this is likely a card you’ll be fine with playing, but don’t prioritize it because it isn’t very good.
This guy is interesting. We don’t see a lot of universal haste granting, and it can range in power level quite a bit (See Blur Sliver and Hammer of Purphoros). It’s pretty good, but the problem is that Cyclops of Eternal Fury is a 6-drop. What are you still going to be playing after your 6-drop?
I like this sort of effect when I can get it down early and accelerate my curve, but only affecting my topdecks is significantly worse. Another mark against this card is that “good” 6 drops are easy to find, so unless a 6-drop is particularly impressive, there’s no reason to pick it very high. A 5/3 haste for 6 is a pretty good way to close out a game (It would be a lot better at 5/4 – see Tenement Crasher) but the unique effect it provides doesn’t really give it an edge on the other 6 drops.
THIS is a scary card, whichever side of the table you’re on. Casting this after blockers can be a pretty big play, making chumps into trades and unblocked creatures do twice as much damage, but after that it is a symmetrical effect that makes it really easy to deal lethal damage to a player. This card is powerful, but try not to let your opponent untap with it in play because you’ll probably die. I am pretty excited to play it in Standard with Boros Charm and Boros Reckoner, though.
Eidolon of the Great Revel is a 2/2 for 2, and has an otherwise symmetrical effect on the game. It’s better for you if you have fewer spells in your deck with CMC less than or equal to 3, and worse if your opponent does. You can even play your cheap spells before this card so that you don’t take damage…but then your opponent gets the opportunity to do the same. Not to mention how a 2/2 for 2 gets worse and worse as turns go on. I think the important part of this card is the Grizzly Bears portion, and the other effect – while relevant – doesn’t make it much worse, or much better. It has a lot of potential in constructed formats where the converted mana cost of cards is usually lower. In Standard, it represents an Ash Zealot-like 2-drop that does the opponent 2 damage if they untap and immediately kill it.
Hey, this card’s got some cool interactions…there are artifacts worth killing…+1/+1 is relevant…heroic triggers are a thing…ah, I can’t do it. Flamespeaker’s Will does a lot of things, but none of them are good. It’s playable – barely – in a *very* aggressive Red deck that has a LOT of heroic, but even then it’s one of the worst cards in your deck. If you’re not in that sort of deck, stay away from Flamespeaker’s Will.
Flurry of Horns is a 4/6 distributed among two bodies for 5 mana. Now, a 4/6 for 5 is a great body and would be very good. The problem is that when you split it up it becomes better…or worse…it really depends. It’s worse at dealing with large creatures, but better if you’re swarming or being swarmed. In general you’re likely going to wish it was just a 4/6, but the amount of power and toughness you get for 5 mana is quite good, and the haste is definitely relevant. We can also compare this to Knight Watch, which was fine, and 2/3s with haste are usually better than 2/2s with vigilance. That format was very aggressive, and BTT was as well but we still don’t know whether JBT will be quite as aggressive. I like the card, and it seems like it will be very good if your deck wants to be attacking.
Lava Axe is a card that we’ve seen be pretty good in the past, but it really fits in – what? It’s not strictly worse? Oh, I guess you can pay 2 early on and then only need 4 mana for it later. And it can potentially trigger constellation. So is it better or worse? Well, it really depends on the situation. Largely it fits a very similar role that Lava Axe would, so we can treat it like that most of the time. If you have some constellation then it makes sense to prioritize it a little more than you would otherwise because of the added upside. Font of Ire in general seems like a card that I’ll like if I’m being aggressive, but not really if I’m not. It’s certainly better than the Cinder Hatchet, however.
This guy has a lot of things going on, but I think it’s important to remember that we have a 4/2 for 4, which by itself is a fine body, if a little fragile, in addition to a ping when it enters the battlefield. There is also quite a bit of potential for more value if you can land a couple of enchantments in the same turn, or just ping some 1-toughness creatures later on. All in all, this guy seems pretty impressive. Something really nice is that often the creatures that would make Forgeborn Oreads bad – cheap 2-power creatures – will have 1 toughness, and you can use the Oreads to kill them. That means that some portion of the time a 4/2 is not the body you want, you can take care of the issue and make the 4/2 good again!
The art and flavor text on this guy really inspire a sense of awe…or maybe a sense of something else. Anyway, this is the common monster in JOU for red. It’s 6 mana, and for 7 it becomes a HUGE 8/7. It will certainly close a game out eventually, but after paying 6-then-7 mana, and it doesn’t have any evasion by itself. If you are in the market for a 6-drop then this fits the bill quite fine, but you can get a reasonable 6-drop really late in this format so you won’t see me picking it very early.
Whew, this card is scary! Normally with a card like Act of Treason we can get a temporary 2-for-1 – our opponent loses a blocker, and gain an attacker. It’s a great way to close out games, and a good card to have in your aggressive deck. Harness by Force on the other hand, besides having the 3-mana mode of just Act of Treason, which will certainly win many games, can be a temporary 4-for-1! Your opponent loses 2 blockers, and you gain 2 attackers! What makes this card different from other strive cards is that its effect is already kind of doubled. It’s not permanent advantage mind you, so when you strive it, you’re getting double the bonus! Harness by Force is a very powerful card if you’re being even remotely aggressive (Which is what red wants to do in this format anyway), and it can easily win games on its own.
Knowledge and Power is a sweet card with a lot of fun potential – it’s even in Journey into Nyx so we can first-pick it and move in! The problem is, there’s not enough scry to make this card good enough at 5 mana.
If it cost 2 or 3, then we might have something here, but otherwise this card is only going to be good if a large portion of the spells in your deck have scry on them, and even then 5 mana makes it just too slow.
What is this card doing? 2 damage, a heroic trigger, and +2/+2 are all relevant effects, but none of them really do much once you get to the part of the game when you have 6 mana. A lot of the time we see many effects stapled together on the same card and it’s usually pretty good because you get more value. Urban Evolution was sweet. But this card just combines effects that are good exactly when you can get them for low mana costs, so combining them really just makes the card bad. Lightning Diadem is risky and has mediocre payoff, and I wouldn’t play it in most decks.
Ah, 1-mana instant-speed removal. We don’t see a ton of this nowadays, as it would make heroic strategies significantly worse, not to mention ordeals, but now we see it. Sooooo…is it good? Yeah! This card gives you a way to interact early with any ‘wide’ deck which is invaluable. It can bridge you to the mid-game against a deck like that, which is often all you need to win a game. Against ‘tall’ decks it’s even better! You can kill their heroic creature in response to a trick or aura, as early as you need to. It’s key that it is only 1 mana as well, because you can play a blocker and block, forcing your opponent to have a combat trick and then play this on the same turn, getting a 2-for-1. And don’t even get me started on this card in aggressive decks. Magma Spray their blocker + 2-drop is a sick turn 3 play if you’re beating down. Magma Spray is a great card that is a bit worse in the late game, but good no matter strategy you’re playing. The exile effect on the card doesn’t matter all that much right now, but it might after rotation. Take that Voice of Resurgence.
I think this is the downside bestow card you are least likely to bestow on your opponent’s creature. +2/+2 for three mana is HUGE, and being forced to attack is a downside that will very often be easy to ignore, as anything with reasonable power and toughness is likely going to be big enough to safely attack with +2/+2 on it. This card is good in heavily aggressive decks, and even better in aggressive heroic decks. I think it will be a rare game when I play this card for 2 mana (And I’m hoping a good portion of those games are when I have Hero of Iroas).
Ah, the 2/3 for 3 in red. A classic card that seems out of place in such an aggressive color but ends up being quite good regardless. Pensive Minotaur, while basically the same as Felhide Minotaur, will likely fill a very different role simply because it’s in red, which is a very aggressive color in this block. A 2/3 is a bear that attacks a little better than normal, and this one costs 3 mana. It blocks 2/2s and 2/1s, and it attacks into them too. This guy is a totally reasonable 3-drop that will be good in aggressive decks and defensive alike, but never great.
There’s been a lot of press about this card, and for good reason. Double Strike and Trample just SCREAM to be bestowed on, and potential card advantage always makes the pros excited. The problem with this guy is that unlike traditional saboteurs like Scroll Thief, you must use the cards he finds immediately. This means that if you use a bounce spell or pump spell to get him in, you won’t likely have enough mana to cast the cards you reveal with him, and you’ll lose them. While I think it might be a bit over-hyped, it’s important to remember that he is just better (In most cases) than a 2/3 trample, and if this gets any larger it is just terrifying.
This card looks terrifying. Not terrifying for your opponent to play, but terrifying for ME to play. Will I find a 6-drop? All lands? It’s pretty risky. In general Riddle of Lightning is a totally reasonable removal spell and you can expect it to usually be about 3 damage, depending on the curve of your deck. Scry 3 is also very powerful, and the ability to kill a creature and scry 3 is certainly something I like. Overall Riddle of Lightning is pretty good, but I don’t know if I’ll ever have the balls to cast it.
Now this card is pretty darn sweet. It seems like something that cost 2RR and then development decided it was too strong and needed to be 3RR instead, and if that’s the case then it’s probably pretty good. It can clear away creatures with low toughness, or even larger creatures if you suicide yours in before combat. It can pump your team’s power before a huge attack to make your creatures lethal, or just make trades awkward for you opponent. The nice thing is that your opponents won’t ever have that +2 power while able to attack, since it’s a sorcery. The problem with all of this, of course, is that if you’re playing red, it is likely that a large portion of your creatures will die to this – a larger portion than your opponents. However, you can craft the gamestate to make it good, and even suicide your creatures in to get in damage before wiping the board. Being able to decide what cards to play before this card makes it significantly better than it is for your opponent, and while I don’t think it’s very strong, I can’t wait to play it.
This card seems pretty good, right? The 1-mana with 3 to strive red card, it’s a combat trick – but providing no additional toughness is a big deal. Rouse the Mob on a couple of creatures can close a game out pretty quickly, especially if you’re heroic, and the ability to trigger heroic while also providing some extra damage or making a creature trade when it wouldn’t otherwise. It can kill an opponent out of nowhere, but many other combat tricks have a similar capability, and this is the one that doesn’t save your creature in combat. I’d play this in a very aggressive or very heroic deck, but even then it’s not the best.
Finally we get what we want. The simple 1/1 for 1 that grows with heroic triggers. What’s that you say? Favored Hoplite is just better for several reasons? …well, this guy’s still pretty good. Red has always wanted a heroic +1/+1 counter creature, and now aggressive red has even more access to heroic than it did before. If you’re going wide, it’s probably not the best, but as a 1/1 for 1 that is a 2/2 as long as you target it with anything, it’s still fits right in there. This card will be good as long as you’re aggressive or heroic, but otherwise not the best. But what else is red doing in this format anyway?
I love this card. It’s not especially powerful or efficient, it doesn’t do anything unique, it’s just exactly what you want no matter who you are. It blocks early, it attacks early, and it provides card selection when you attack. It’s not nearly as good if you’re not attacking, and your opponent will likely trade off for it early, but as we saw with Oreskos Sun Guide, random upside from attacking makes a card go from good to quite good.
Spawn of Thraxes. A 5/5 flying dragon for 7 mana, that deals 3 or 4 damage to a creature when it comes down. It stabilizes quite hard and provides a nice big evasive clock to your opponent. This card is not too interesting, and whether you want it in your deck is dependent mostly on whether you want to have a 7-drop at all. It’s a good 7-drop, but not so good that you should let it distract you from having a very aggressive deck whose curve tops out at 4 if that’s what you want to do (Or if that’s what the draft says you should do).
So…0 to 1 (Sometimes 2) damage at sorcery speed for 1 mana? That doesn’t really seem playable – oh that’s not all? Ah, sorry, I forgot about the Scry 1. No, Spite of Mogis isn’t really playable in limited. Its mana cost being 1 is not as good when it doesn’t do anything until later in the game anyway. I’m certainly excited to play it in constructed, though, maybe with a little Boros Reckoner action.
Starfall has a lot of “Mostly betters” we can compare it to. Lash Out, Punish the Enemy, and Burn the Impure just to name a few. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good…but it isn’t very good. A 5 mana 3-damage spell doesn’t really pull its weight in a format where Rage of Purphoros is not very good at all, and while it can hit your opponent for damage in some cases and even get you 2-for-1s with its instant speed, it is usually going to be worse than even Rage. Starfall is a removal spell, but not a great one.
Twinflame is interesting. You can only get your own creatures, and your opponent gets to keep theirs, so it’s significantly worse than Harness by Force in most spots, except that it’s 1 mana cheaper. However, you can get the enters the battlefield ability on your creature again, which can potentially be worth quite a bit (See Spawn of Thraxes). The problem is, if you don’t have a reasonably good board, your opponent can likely block pretty well regardless of a Twinflame. You’ll like get some damage through, so if you’re beating down pretty hard then it’s a nice way to close out a game, but then so is Font of Ire.
A 5-mana 4/3 with 7 mana monstrous to become a 5/4 seems pretty small for a monster, but it’s the monstrous trigger that really gets ya. This card has the potential to wrath your opponent’s board, not to mention doing some damage. What a great finisher for an aggressive deck, although the monstrous does cost 7 mana. It’s important to remember that Wildfire Cerberus is a 4/3 for 5 on its own which, while it’s not a huge body, is very relevant on its own even if you can’t monstrosity.
Well, we did it! Every red card in Journey into Nyx. Definitely not as ridiculous as Born of the Gods red, but also definitely better than Theros red, at least for aggressive decks. And there are even some defensive sweet ones, like Rollick of Abandon! I’m personally excited to draft this block, and all the great cards in it.